Setu Bandhasana | Bridge Pose
setu = dam, dike, or bridge bandha = lock
Type of Pose: Back Bend
• Stretches the chest, neck, and spine
• Strengthens the spine, shoulders, legs and arms
• Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression
• Stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid
• Increases blood circulation
• Improves digestion
• Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
• Relieves menstrual discomfort when done supported
• Reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache, and insomnia
• Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis
• Improves 4th and 5th chakra functions
• Neck injury: avoid this pose unless you are practicing under the supervision of an experienced teacher.
• Recent or chronic shoulder or back injury or inflammation
• Pregnancy (last trimester)
• For Knee Problems – keep feet and knees over ankles
• For tight shoulders or neck – use a small prop under the head
• For weak back muscles – repeat the posture a few times rather than hold it.
Step by Step
1. Lie on the floor, arms at the sides. If necessary, place a thickly folded blanket under the shoulders to protect the neck. Bend the knees and set the feet on the floor, slightly pigeon toed and hip width distance apart. Heels are as close to the sitting bones as possible.
2. Exhale and, pressing the inner feet and arms actively into the floor, push your tailbone upward toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) the buttocks, lifting with the pelvis, bringing the lower and upper back off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel, squeezing the inner thighs together as if there is a ball between the legs.
3. There are two options for the arms: Clasp the hands below your pelvis to support the bridge and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders; Or after you lift the pelvis and back off the floor, alternately roll onto each shoulder to create the space to bring the arms underneath you. Interlace the fingers, extending the arms towards the heels, keeping the arms and hands on the floor.
4. Lift your buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over the heels, but push them forward, away from the hips, and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees. Lift the pubis toward the navel.
5. Lift your chin slightly away from the sternum and, firming the shoulder blades against your back, press the top of the sternum toward the chin. Firm the outer arms, broaden the shoulder blades, and try to lift the space between them at the base of the neck (where it’s resting on the blanket) up into the torso.
6. Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release the shoulders with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.
• If the student has difficulty supporting the lift of the pelvis in this pose after taking it away from the floor, slide a block or bolster under the sacrum and rest the pelvis on this support.
• Once the shoulders are rolled under, be sure not to pull them forcefully away from the ears, which tends to overstretch the neck. Lift the tops of the shoulders slightly toward the ears and push the inner shoulder blades away from the spine.
• If the student is having difficulty keeping the thighs together, they can wrap a strap around the thighs to prevent the legs from splaying out.
Deepen the Pose: Once in the pose, lift your heels off the floor and push your tailbone up, a little closer to the pubis. Then from the lift of the tail, stretch the heels back to the floor again.
Misalignments: Students will often turn the feet out once they have lifted up off the floor. Have them reposition their feet back to a slight pigeon toe.
Variations: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
From Setu Bandhasana, straighten one leg at a time by sliding or stepping one foot at a time away from the body. Maintain a strong lift through the pelvis as well as the backs of the legs. Stay in the pose from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Keep the thighs isometrically adducted.
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (pronounced ACHE-ah PAH-dah, eka = one, pada = foot or leg)
From Setu Bandhasana -on an exhalation, lift the right knee into your torso, then inhale and extend the leg perpendicular to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, then release the foot to the floor again with an exhalation. Secure the foot again and repeat with the left leg for the same length of time.